2023 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2023 Toyota Highlander

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  • 2023 Nissan Pathfinder

    A grey 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek is angled left.

    Starting at

    $35,200[a]

    2023 Toyota Highlander

    A white 2023 Toyota Highlander is shown angled left.

    Starting at

    $36,620

    295Horsepower (hp)265
    Rock CreekOff-Road TrimNone
    6,000Max. Towing (lbs)5,000

    Power, reliability, spaciousness, functionality, and performance are the key ingredients that make a full-size SUV something special that stands above other types of vehicles on the road. If you are looking for a vehicle that gives you tremendous room inside to enjoy with your friends and family and an amazing driving experience that lets you go anywhere you can imagine, then a powerful and dependable large SUV is a great choice. Picking the right one can be challenging, which is why it helps to look at just a couple at a time to see what they offer. Considering the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2023 Toyota Highlander, for example, makes it easy to see that while the Toyota has some fine features, the Pathfinder blazes ahead.

    One of the biggest strengths of the Nissan Pathfinder is its powerful engine, designed to be incredibly fun both on and off the road. You get a 3.5L V6 engine from Nissan that delivers up to 295 hp, which comes paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission for an incredibly smooth and responsive driving experience. The Toyota Highlander comes with a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine that offers just 265 hp; this is noticeably weaker than the Pathfinder's engine and can make a big difference when you are behind the wheel. But the difference does not simply exist on paper; thanks to its remarkable powertrain, the Nissan Pathfinder can handle up to 6,000 lbs of towing while the Highlander tops out at just 5,000 lbs of towing capacity.

    Not only do you get a more powerful engine with greater capability from Nissan, but the Pathfinder is also designed to be a more rugged and adventurous model. While Nissan's impressive Intelligent four-wheel drive (4x4) is available on all Pathfinder models, the Rock Creek edition elevates things even further with an off-road-tuned suspension, beadlock capable wheels, and an Intelligent Around View Monitor with an Off-Road Mode—the Toyota Highlander lacks a similar model with an off-road focus. Most remarkably of all, while both of these SUVs come with an impressive array of standard safety features, the Pathfinder goes even further thanks to standard Rear Automatic Braking and a Blind Spot Warning with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, both of which are available on the Highlander, but not standard.

  • Capability

    A grey 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum is shown from the rear during a 2023 Nissan Pathfinder vs 2023 Toyota Highlander comparison.

    With a full-size SUV, the engine is incredibly important but also all-too-easily overlooked since you might be distracted by the impressive interior features and safety technology. It is pretty common for some folks to think of the engine as only really mattering in a big truck or a sports car, but a large SUV like this essentially is a truck, so the power that gets it going is vital. This is something that Nissan understands, as the Pathfinder comes with a fantastic engine that puts the Toyota Highlander's engine to shame in some key ways.

    The Pathfinder's 3.5L V6 Engine

    In the Pathfinder, you get a 3.5L V6 engine that delivers up to 295 hp and 270 lb-ft of torque. This powerful engine comes with a nine-speed automatic transmission to ensure an incredibly responsive driving experience, plus you can choose either two-wheel drive or 4x4, depending on your preference. Pathfinder models come with paddle shifters on the wheel, letting you maintain as much control as you want, with a Drive and Terrain Mode system that makes it easy to adjust to changes in road conditions.

    The Highlander's 2.4L Engine

    By comparison, the Toyota Highlander features a smaller 2.4L 4-cylinder engine that offers just 265 hp, though it does also come with an 8-speed automatic transmission. This is a significant difference in horsepower you can feel when driving these two SUVs. Not only do you get less power with this engine, but it translates into reduced real-world capability in terms of towing potential. Whereas the Highlander offers just 5,000 lbs of maximum towing, the Nissan Pathfinder can haul up to 6,000 lbs behind it, making it a better option for taking a boat, trailer, or camper with you wherever you want to go.

  • Off-Road

    A red 2023 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum is shown from the side parked near a river.

    A great SUV should match your lifestyle and the things you enjoy doing, giving you a vehicle that fits into your routine and adventures rather than something you feel you need to reorganize. With three rows of seating inside, it is easy to choose either of these vehicles as a family-friendly option, which is great, but if you enjoy spending a lot of time outdoors, there are some important differences between them. The good news is that both models have 4x4 systems available, but the Pathfinder goes a lot further.

    The Nissan Pathfinder Rock Creek

    At the heart of this difference is that Nissan offers a special Rock Creek edition for the Pathfinder designed to take your next adventure further than ever, while Toyota offers no such option for the Highlander. To be fair, sometimes manufacturers will try to act like they have a solid off-road model while delivering very little in the way of improvements, but that is certainly not the case with the Pathfinder. For starters, the Pathfinder Rock Creek comes with 18-inch Black-painted beadlock-style aluminum-alloy wheels that are perfect if you like to do a lot of rock crawling or other off-road driving where deflating your tires slightly helps with traction.

    Other Notable Rock Creek Features

    The Rock Creek also comes with an off-road-tuned suspension to help improve your vehicle's performance when you leave the pavement behind. This does not necessarily mean you can tackle the most challenging areas in the country in Pathfinder, but it does make it a fantastic choice for leaving the city and exploring the wilderness for a day or two (or more). You also get an Intelligent Around View Monitor with an Off-Road Mode in the Rock Creek, which gives you superior visibility while tackling challenging terrain. Inside, you will even find gorgeous orange contrast stitching to set the Rock Creek edition apart and water-repellent seating materials to help keep your interior clean no matter how messy the trail gets.

  • Safety

    The black interior of a 2023 Nissan Pathfinder shows the steering wheel and front seating.

    When looking at any vehicle, nothing is more important than how well it can keep you and your loved ones safe. Fortunately, the 2023 Nissan Pathfinder and the Toyota Highlander are remarkably safe vehicles with a fantastic selection of standard and available safety features. It may seem strange for us to be excited about a competitor offering something, but we want every driver and vehicle on the road to be as safe as possible. The problem with the Toyota model, however, is that Nissan gives you more to start with and some options that you cannot get on the Highlander.

    Toyota Safety Sense

    For example, the Toyota Highlander has many standard safety features courtesy of the Toyota Safety Sense suite, which includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection and a Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist. It also has Automatic High Beams, Lane Tracing Assist, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, all designed to help avoid collisions. Other safety technology like Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automatic Braking and a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert are available for the Highlander but do not come on the standard model.

    Nissan Safety Shield 360

    With the Nissan Pathfinder, you get many similar features in its Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite and much more: an Intelligent Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection are standard, along with a Lane Departure Warning and High Beam Assist. Taking things even further, however, the Pathfinder comes with a Blind Spot Warning and a Rear Cross Traffic Alert standard on every model, with advanced technology like Intelligent Blind Spot Intervention and an Intelligent Around View Monitor available to elevate your safety systems. You also get a Rear Sonar System and Rear Automatic Braking as standard safety features on every Pathfinder, leaving the Toyota Highlander in its dust regarding how well it can keep you and your friends and family safe.

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